Richard Rippon has the opening and closing stories in this edition of MD. The opener is How to Disappear Completely, a twisted take on super powers t...more Richard Rippon has the opening and closing stories in this edition of MD. The opener is How to Disappear Completely, a twisted take on super powers that focuses not on cosmic consequences but very personal ones. All without ″feeling″ like a superhero story. Episode 6 of the Dead Girls series is next. It sees hyper-infectious sex doll Primavera and her boy toy Iggy sneaking back into the tower-home of the woman who betrayed them. This time, though, they're not looking for aid, but bringing it. It's nice to see MD has nailed the proper length for their graphic serials.
Zachary Jernigan's Mexico Needs You is a real fun twist on Mexican-American relations with properly squicky parasites to boot. Jacob Edwards' 20/10 is a surreal story of extreme dining-style thrill-seeking told from a character aging out of a place of understanding. Earl is an immediately sympathetic character, with an immediately sympathetic conflict made worse by being thrown into a mindlessly gory plot. Rather than just turning the story into another mindless horror tale it sets an engaging contrast between setting, genre and character.
Smiles by Kurt Kirchmeier is one of the few (if only) zombies stories I've read in MD. It, delightfully, manages not to get caught up in the yarn of ultraviolence and gore of most zombie stories and instead sneaks in a theme of isolation and community. Desire by Paul L. Matthews is a short, to the point, graphic strip about the nature of humanity, and about how some things can't be bred out, outlawed or forgotten.
Whisperer by Craig Pay is one of the creepiest stories in the issue (which is saying something because there are cannibals, zombies and pornocracies here). Another dark, paranormal cop tale (there were two in the last issue, and I love that kind of story) that pits rational thought against a madness which will always win. In an issue of great tales it's one to skip forward for.
I Wish I May by JC Geiger is a solid follow up, an intimate take on wish fulfillment and the failure of rationalization. Viscous Circle by Elizabeth Creith packs another pop into tale with just enough of a science fiction slant to make it truly interesting. Short and quite clever, it's another gem.
Lavie Tidhar's I Dream of Ants is back for another installment. Hitler is getting progressively more insane and meanwhile his ant adversaries are on an excursion to Antarctica to beg aid from a creature who may not be friendly to them. Tidhar very nearly manages to be charming with his ability to make familiar spaces into bizarre alien lands and plots.
Orion's Belt by Martin Rose is a psychotic bent on conspiracy theories that's hard to put down. It matches very well with Christine Lucas' Demon Kebabs, with Fries on the Side which starts with a pet cat catching a demon and spins off from there. Both stories are excellent, dark and mentally-twisted. Pure enjoyment to read.
Richard Rippons brings up the rear with The Uninvited. It's a good creepy tale, empowered by its lead, a mute disabled man. It's drawback is that between its short length and its illustration also being the cover readers know what they're getting into right away.
But I must say this is one of the best, most universally enjoyable issues of MD I've read, absolutely proving why they won the British Fantasy Award for Best Magazine last year.(less)
Murky Depths is without a doubt one of my favorite magazines. Spawned out of the UK it's a hybrid blend of graphic strips (don't call these moody, dar...moreMurky Depths is without a doubt one of my favorite magazines. Spawned out of the UK it's a hybrid blend of graphic strips (don't call these moody, dark tales comics) and short stories, science fiction, fantasy, horror, articles and interviews. Richard Calder's Dead Girls takes the cover of issue 16, but we'll get to that in a bit.
The first tale in this issue is Alan Baxter's Mirrorwalk. This one has a Lovecraft feel, no elder gods, but two people who stumble upon ancient scrolls of magic find that people just aren't designed to mess with such things.
Next up is Mecurio D. Rivera's All Smiles, a short tale that serves up human-alien relations where we're not being invaded, but they aren't peaceful, benign critters either, along with a side of sadistic peepshow. Following is Valeria by Ian R. Faulkner. This one is science fiction as well, though it doesn't need aliens. Instead Faulkner takes readers into the twisted minds of humanity in a techno-noir tale of an abuse victim fighting back.
The highly sexualized build up is a perfect lead in for the next installment of Richard Calder's Dead Girls series. Calder tells of a pornocracy (where the politics, technology and economy is all driven by sex) where a disease has turned Primavera into a highly infectious vampiric Sex Doll. Along with her sidekick, doll-junkie Ignatz (essentially the person she acts out on) she's been captured by an ″unknown third party″ who's looking to torture (and not in the fun way) some answers out of them. The drama so far (nano bot diseases, sexual intrigue and a boy and girl who just want to be left alone and free to love each other) proves Primavera and Ignatz are in over their heads when they didn't even realize they were ″in″ in the first place. I really hope MD plans to release a collected version of Dead Girls for more in depth reading. * ETA: They are!
Blood Not Boiling by Andrew Roberts is a twisted vampire tale that makes Anne Rice's choice to have Lestat feed from a tampon in Memnoch the Devil look tame. The title is apt as it confronts sensitive subjects and makes them into something even more bizarre. Teamwork by Jonathan Pinnock is one of those fabulous dark SF stories of space exploration and technology where the reader knows from the beginning something is wrong, but doesn't really appreciate it until the end. This one's deserving of a Hitchcock episode.
Michael J. deLuca's Mowing Them Down also covers familiar horror territory, but since readers won't guess which land it wanders into I won't tell. Suffice to say it's got an aging-Clockwork Orange feel and atmosphere so thick you can smell the cigar smoke. JS Watt's The Audition ties in very well with previous entries Dead Girls, All Smiles and Teamwork. This SF tale explores the insidious world of movie stars and Hollywood, though. It's expected bite is no less severe and happily Watts manages to make the pretentious surfer dude actor's plight a sympathetic journey.
Kevin David Anderson's Momentum offers one last story piece, a post apoc horror story with carnies and trickery and a solid horror end. The last graphic piece is part two of Lavie Tidhar's really weird I Dream of Ants. If you've ever wondered what a war between the biggest bad guy in European history and the smallest, techno-forged, scariest community bug in the world would be like...well I'm sure you wouldn't even come close to Lavie's really bizarre vision.
Issue 16 shows stellar storytelling, imagination and a solid thematic flow, paired with great art is why I always look forward to getting MD in my mail.(less)
How can you resist a magazine with a cephalopod on the cover? I know I can't.
Murky Depths is a hybrid graphic novel/short story speculative magazine...moreHow can you resist a magazine with a cephalopod on the cover? I know I can't.
Murky Depths is a hybrid graphic novel/short story speculative magazine out of the UK that's been doing great things for years now. Issue #15 kicks off with a simplistic graphic strip, Boxed In by Al Ewing and Neil Roberts. One can't help but sympathize with the lead, and feel the emotion through this series of punchy cut shots. This story definitely wouldn't be the same told any other way.
Unforeseen Legacy by Juliet McKenna plays with several classic “monsters”, throwing Myrtle, a housemaid into a supernatural mystery over the the recent death of a local man, Tom Marvel. Marvel, of course, is not what he seems and neither is anyone in this throwback tale.
Deep Trouble by Anthony Malone is the inspiration for the giant octopus on the cover. This one's an environmental tale of the deep seas and that which lurks beneath, told by an off-kilter, more modern lead than Ahab.
Robin Bell and Thomas Tuke's Susie Pepper's Teeth is a taunting tale of a little girl with teeth growing where they're not supposed to be, and creepy monster that we don't see enough of. While the art is good, and the pacing great as well, this is one that might have been better in a longer form.
The Fence Sitters by John Hilario is one of those unavoidable political-fueled tales, but without a lot of preachiness or a crystal clear twist. Disturbing and effective, the biggest flaw is the text is difficult to see printed on the gray scale background.
Spare Change by Jon T. Cook is a short study on how short the memory is, and how that which is imagined previously quickly becomes outdated. Frozen by Gareth D. Jones and Mick Trimble is also very short, with a clear, horrific story.
Juggling Glass Globes at the Hemophiliac's Zoo by Robert Davies is a tantalizing piece with more meat to it that the previous tales. My favorite of the issue, it centers on an ape working in a bizarre religious exhibition/zoo/theme park where sinners are infused with diseases to suffer for the learning of the non-sinners. It has a lot of classic science fiction themes and avoids becoming lurid or overdone.
The Face by Rory McConville and George Gousis is an interesting piece as well, potentially more interesting for not explaining its world setting. Here people can switch faces and become new people which leads to all kind of interesting issues with identity.
Fishers of Men by Jasper Bark and Paul Rafferty is sick, funny and well drawn. Offensive too in a deep-southern-fried way. Victimized by Rhichard Thomas is also very interesting, telling of a future world where victims of crimes can take their assailants into the ring for a possibly-to-the-death fight. The effects of this on all involved, and those on the sidelines placing bets, makes for a rich, engaging story.
Lavie Tidhar and Neil Struthers' Episode #1: I Dream of Ants, is also a great addition to the Murky Depths pages. It translates well to the more visual medium of a graphic strip, is complete in pen and ink form and like many of Lavie's tales is very strange, mashing up two very real things that you're not likely to see together anywhere else.
Last up is Kaolin Imago Fire's second half to Murky Depth's “Finish this story” challenge. Time travel stories are hard to pull off. This one about a pharmaceutical company manufacturing a drink that can induce time travel (Then!) is done well while remaining clear. My only complain is not knowing more about the drink itself (but I suppose I missed that in the previous issue).
Issue 8 of Murky Depths is chock full of tight, short tales of speculative terror. It opens with a poetic ode to...moreI was given this magazine for review.
Issue 8 of Murky Depths is chock full of tight, short tales of speculative terror. It opens with a poetic ode to the corporate head honcho bad guy, “The Majority Shareholder” by Edward R. Norden.
Then comes an end of the world tale where the most important character is a cat, David Tallerman's “Peachy”, followed by another chiaroscuro graphic strip from Luke Cooper, “The Wrath of God part 1”. This time Cooper's favorite characters, Halo the Nephalim and Goulding, the cop with a heart of an angel, literally, still can't escape getting the weird cases. They're facing a vigilante that's decided killing Halo is the way to get back to Heaven. It looks to be an interesting new storyline in Cooper's wicked noir world.
“What the Tongue Will Taste” by Sam J. Drane is a money-and-power tale of what men who have it all and have done it all do when they get bored. There are clones involved making this tale a fun little masturbatory fantasy, depending on how you look at it.
Geoffrey Girad's “Collecting James” is also a tale of a rich and powerful man getting what he wants. In this one he wants the gifts others have he doesn't, and takes them from his victims in the form of trepanning and discs of bone that retain their former owners' memories. But the twist in this one is better than readers will expect.
“Hero in Hell” by James Johnson (the piece that inspired this issue's awesome cover) is a great concept, a super hero finds himself in hell after death, but it suffers from the most common problem in these graphic shorts, there's just so much more story to be told than can come out in this space. It was sad to see it end.
“Out of Time” by J Westlake is predictable, but the storytelling here is more about experiencing the story, which is a very accurate and interesting portrayal of depression. Readers can walk in the experiences of the depressed main character as his isolation and uncontrollable sadness take literal forms in the story world.
Following the mental illness theme (and the writer theme established with “Collecting James”), Christine Luca's “My Muse Wears Army Boots” is a tale of hypergraphia, the compulsion to write, sparked by a sadistic and abusive muse. The interesting early set up of a wanna be writer who can read corpses is dropped in favor of the hypergraphia angle, making this tale feel like two in one. The plot line at the end is easy to anticipate, taking some of the umph out of the story, even if the visuals are strong.
“Recall” a graphic strip by Chris Huff follows, pitting eternal youth against fate. It's immediately followed by a glimpse at another artist's vision of Huff's tale, as the first artist was forced to abandon the tale. It is interesting to see how two people visualized and affected the same story.
“The Undead” by Lawrence Buentello is the best of the issue, and the kind of story you want to point out to other people, saying “Read this one.” J T is suffering from the loss of his wife, but his lasting love with her leads to the power to bring back the dead—all the dead—within the vicinity of J T, except for the one thing he wants back. With a chilling, almost beautiful end it shouldn't be missed.
“Endless” by Sylvanus Moxley is the second poem in this issue, and not altogether a dismal or depressing one. In fact, in a way, it's an almost hopeful tale of a man trapped in a ship orbiting the moon.
“Monitor” by Richard Rippon delves somewhat into postpartum depression, except poor new mom Sarah is dealing with a truly evil little newborn. Uncomfortably creepy it's also an excellent read.
“Nosing with the Four-Stroke Kid” by KC Ball is another short, spiky addition to this issue, the tale of a unique motorcycle and its rider. Finally comes “The Pilgrimage” a last graphic offering by Kristopher Barker, about a woman who will go to any means to find her path to salvation.
Another fine collection of tales, Murky Depths bears a resemblance to the classic Tales from the Crypt publications, only with significantly better stories.(less)
Bizzaro fiction is something of a new experience for me. I've read small bits of it before, but it's not a genre I consider myself well versed in so t...more Bizzaro fiction is something of a new experience for me. I've read small bits of it before, but it's not a genre I consider myself well versed in so this is going to be a less neutral review that takes the experiences of an inexperienced reader into account. What I'm looking for in a good weird story is intelligence despite absurdness, a story I'm capable of understanding despite skewing the idea of reality and an emotional response with some aspect of the story.
Polluto # 2, dubbed "Apocalypses & Garden Furniture", is a hefty collection of tales.
First off, "The End" by Dave Migman, is a short and to-the-point tale of an apocalypse that's worthy of the more traditional science fiction tales on the subject. As a quick introduction to Polluto it's a solid, enjoyable tale.
"Scenes of Creation" by Grant Wamack centers on a very interesting idea, an artist/creator's discards taking on a brutal-filled life of their own. A commentary on creativity controlling the creator, it wiggles into too much for my tastes at brief moments, but is otherwise solid.
"I'm Going Through Changes" also by Dave Migman is similar to many "crazy-serial killer" stories one finds in the horror genre. However it possesses a beauty and meaning that other such stories lack, mostly because it's not trying to be brutal, flashy or horrific. It's just being.
Chet Gottfriend's "The Ragnarok Seduction" is deviously hilarious, and worth the price of this issue alone. The tale of Jack, a much-suffering husband to a Valkyrie who is a bit over-enthused about the impending end of the world it's very clever and amusing from beginning to end. A highly recommended read.
"Twins" by Rosalia Sanfilippo is an excellent poem that challenges the icons of religion and our need for and perceptions of higher powers. It's also very readable and understandable, with good imagery.
Next, Steve Redwood's "The Burden of Sin" is a parallel to the Highlander movies and television shows. Not quite a copy, it uses the familiar reference to make more musings about religions and the ideas of belief and sin. When McLoud, a Scottish brute and one of the last immortals, begins badgering Foplamov, the other last immortal who has used his gift to enjoy life rather than to build himself up into a monstrous fighting machine, Foplamov hatches a plan to use the true believer's own fears to even the odds between them. What follows is a strange, paradoxical tale of belief and the irrational power it holds over people.
“Cracking Nuts with Jan Hammer” by Rhys Hughs is a study on Hell as told from a flat, compassionless progressive rock musician. During the course of the story readers learn that all prog rockers go to Hell and serve food to other, better musicians, and that the lead character suspects the Devil himself might be a prisoner in Hell. But nothing much is done with any of these ideas, leaving the story with an overall noncommittal feel.
“Murk” by Robert Lamb is a long and vivid Elder Gods sort of tale about a man who runs into something terrible and strange in the twisting tunnels of the subway. Rescued from the subway wreck he thinks everything is fine until he starts to gain weight and feelings the incredible urge to return to the scene of the crime. This tale flirts with heavy-handedness but mostly remains on the side of dark, toxic, unknowable storytelling.
“Gloomy Countdowns” by William Doreski is a poem that takes several different versions, or scenes, of the end times. Some religion capitalized, some the bitter destruction of beautiful things. They don't quite come together, but each stands fine on its own.
“Hard Landscapes” by P.J. Nolan is another mini-collection of poetry, but this one lost me. The words seemed to collide and refuse to melt together into visual scenes. Only the last part jumped off the page, reflecting on the story's over all title.
Deb Hoag's “Church of the Bitter Raygun” misses for me, getting tangled in its attempts at clever use of phrases, familiar in our time, in a post apocalyptic world. But I found no deeper meaning, or even a world setting, just a mix and match of science fiction aspects and brand names.
Next is “Zombie Love Song” by Adam Lowe, a different kind of zombie tale. Set in India, it's a biohorror testament to the core nature of the world, beauty and rot.
“Love and Gasoline” by Michael Colangelo is a post apocalyptic love story, of sorts. It's purposefully shallow and hopeless, mirroring the plot itself and reinforcing it.
Deb Hoag's “Meatloaf of the Apocalypse” is an almost -sweet tale of genetic mutation, nuclear irradiation and a lonely man. It's partly about the junk we fill our bodies with and what happens when you leave a man home alone and he gets bored. Dark, and it shifts the magazine back to a amusing tone.
“The Art of Survival” by Steven Archer is a rambling piece on the nature of art, quoting a number of truisms that are also found elsewhere. From there Polluto moves on to “Ahlana Demona” by MP Johnson. The title character is a pre-op male-to-female transgendered monster hunter who sweeps up a zombie rights activist into her attempts to find out who has been killing people and blaming innocent zombies. The story is a long rip on urban fantasy, complete with a female lead that's too butch to really be a woman, and a monster love story. Its jumps of logic, cliché baddies and convenient breaks of plot only add to the farce feel of the story.
“The Man Who Flirted with Mother Nature” by Mike Philbin reveals a serious problem with sex issues, as it sets Mother Earth up as a rapist and torturer and humans as her poor, ignorant sex toys. The lead character has a “I'm the only one that is awesome enough to see the truth” attitude and the prose itself lacks a flow and is at times wordy rather than precise. This matches the whole structure of the story, which makes its point quickly, then proceeds to keep reiterating it for seven more pages, killing any interest it manages to build.
“Sex, Lies, Religion” by Micci Oaten of Paparazzi Whore, a nonfiction piece about being yourself comes next. Following is “Camille O'Sullivan: Trickery or Magic” by Patti Plinko, another nonfiction piece on the feeling of being a subject rather than the artist/performer for once.
Then comes “Hobo Poet” by RC Edrington, a triad of punk rock poems and “Live Without a Net: Self-Loathing” also by Edrington. The latter is a prose piece that gives a frighteningly real glimpse inside the mind and life of an addict. This one is one of the darkest and most horrific tales of the issue.
The next fiction tale is “Agent Apocalypse” by Dave Migman. True to title it's a tale of a man who is trying to push the apocalypse closer, not through elaborate measures, but by simple, annoying ones that leave the rest of us wondering if people do these things on purpose. This story says boldly, “Yes, I do.”
“Emerging” by Ellen Kombiyil is a final poetic offering, a slice of post apocalyptic that becomes beauty for one of our most underrated icons.
Finally comes “The Beginning” by Dave Migman, one short final word on the apocalypse that reduces it not to a cosmic end, but to one more part of the a natural cycle.
I found Polluto #2 to be an overall enjoyable read, most of the stories containing all the truth and humor I'd hoped to find. The number of good stories to lackluster makes this one a good buy in my opinion, with a nice re-read quality.(less)
Murky Depths stands out among the offerings of the small press, largely because it contains graphic strips and illustrations, as well as the mix of da...moreMurky Depths stands out among the offerings of the small press, largely because it contains graphic strips and illustrations, as well as the mix of dark genre work that I find simply tantalizing.
Issue 7 features a large number of dark science fiction tales, each one excellent examples of the genre.
“Scratch” by Jason Palmer is half mystery and half psychological science fiction where people wear their obsessions and addictions on their arms, or legs, or tongues, and the battle to resist self destructive tendencies overshadows the battles of good and survival and everything else.
The first graphic offering, “A Brief History of Dogfighting” by James Johnson is a silent film, of sorts, with a deeply ironic tone and a fast pace. Following it and backing up the silent film feel, is a behind the scenes feature which chronicles the evolution of the storyline and the story as a piece of art.
“The Longest Road in the Universe” by CS MacCath is an incredibly emotion piece, easily the kind one might find in a larger publication, following a member of a species bred and genetically manipulated to love and serve a “higher species”. But when their parental figures who used and abused them vanish a whole race has to face their own abuse, with varying, and in this story almost lovingly detailed, results. This is definitely one not to miss.
The immediate follow up, “A Healthy Outlook” by Bill Ward, is a short, tight piece that shows the same sort of mental turmoil, from the point of view someone so die-hard-determined not to be a victim that the farce reaches a morbidly funny point.
“Viewer's Choice” by Willie Meikle keeps to the themes of obsession while softening the science fiction focus. Here the lead can't break away from his television, to the point that all the major memories in his life have a direct link to a television event. A situational story, it nonetheless clearly comments on our favorite societal past time.
“Bite the Bullet” also by James Johnson, is a fantastic romp through the limits of future technology, exploring how technology affects us, for good or ill.
“Psong” by Ian Rogers has less focus. A story about a futuristic assassin, the reader is loaded down with personality and detail without much context. Of course since the lead is a telepath and an object reader this adds more strength to the point of view of the assassin, but readers still have a very limited view of why this story is taking place at all.
“Survivalist” by Kevin Brown is one of the best vampire stories I've read lately, bringing the old Gothic critter into the modern world without turning it into a sex idol.
“Bait” by Paul Milliken follows the vampire story with its natural counterpart, a shape shifter story. This one follows the more traditional formula of an ordinary person whose life intersects with a monster. But this monster comes from the sea and remains more of a mystery than readers might like.
Luke Cooper's “Flashback” adds another tale to the collection surrounding his gritty detective neck deep in the war between Heaven and Hell. In this addition to a potentially interesting plot, readers learn how Goulding got sucked into the Big War in the first place, but his role in it still remains a mystery.
Finally comes “Haruspex” by William Douglas Goodman, a second place finisher to the earlier “The Long Road Home” which brings the issue back around to tales of twisted mentality. In this story a boy finds that he's gained the ability to get visions from dead animals, which has interesting results when your father is a trophy hunter.
All together here's another fine issue that shows the people behind Murky Depths have their head on straight. I look forward to more.(less)